HC Deb 05 February 1979 vol 962 cc5-7
4. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he last met the chairman of the National Coal Board.

Mr. Benn

On 31 January I chaired a meeting of the Coal Industry Tripartite Group, at which the chairman of the National Coal Board and the national officers of all the mining unions were present.

Mr. Hannam

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that he fully supports Sir Derek Ezra's statement at the opening of the pay negotiations that moderation in this year's settlement is essential if the long-term investment plans of the coal industry are to be successful?

Mr. Benn

The negotiations are taking place between NCB and the unions. The tripartite group discussed the future of the industry.

Mr. Ioan Evans

When my right hon. Friend next meets the chairman, will he discuss with him the conclusions of the tripartite group on the development of the South Wales coalfield, in view of the fact that output and productivity there are rising at a higher rate than in any other coalfield in Great Britain?

Mr. Benn

I am aware of the importance of South Wales. I have chaired two or three of the four meetings. I hope that we shall complete our studies of the South Wales area shortly. I am hopeful about the outcome.

Mr. Forman

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that at a recent meeting at which the Chief Secretary to the Treasury was present he pressed his right hon. Friend to make it possible for the NCB with the NUM to make a settlement outside the Governmnt guidelines?

Mr. Benn

I think that the hon. Gentleman is misinformed, because we did not discuss the subject of pay at the tripartite meeting.

Mr. Woodall

When my right hon. Friend next meets Sir Derek, will he have a word with him about the implementation by the Board of the coal mining subsidence legislation? Is my right hon. Friend aware of the widespread concern in my area about the lack of adequate information on subsidence and, secondly, the lack of consideration in providing adequate compensation for suffering caused by stress and strain?

Mr. Benn

I shall certainly raise those matters with Sir Derek Ezra.

Mr. Tom King

Why did the right hon. Gentleman not give a straight answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam)? Does the right hon. Gentleman support Sir Derek Ezra's call for moderation in pay claims if the capital investment programme in the coal industry is to be sustained?

Mr. Benn

Negotiations are between the Coal Board and the NUM. I certainly will not take advice from the Conservative Party about how to handle the mining industry.